There is good news for those who love an afternoon nap: a nap at work is believed to stimulate employees’ creativity and well being. From quiet areas to futuristic siesta cocoons, the practice of taking a nap at work may well become more widespread in the future.
Although the French verb siester only made it into the Petit Robert dictionary in 2016, more than one French person in three claims he or she does not get enough sleep. According to a study by Institut National du Sommeil et de la Vigilance, (the national institute for sleep and vigilance), one employee out of five owns up to having a secret nap at work. In Japan, where people only sleep about six hours and twenty-two minutes during the working week, companies have long encouraged their employees to take a nap during the day, reports The Guardian. Is it the best way of combating tiredness? Yes, but not only does it combat fatigue, scientific research suggests that taking a rest during the working day leads to much greater benefits for both employees and employers.
Natural cycles of drowsiness
« It is a very common bio-rhythm pattern to feel drowsy between 1 pm and 3 pm, and it is nothing to do with digestion or eating » said Caroline Rome, a sophrologist at the sleep centre in Hôtel Dieu hospital in Paris. For many years, Rome has been working with companies such as Airbus, Air France and Axa, teaching staff to allow themselves to have a short nap, even if it is only a few minutes long: « It is a time of day when we are slightly washed out, when daytime vigilance is at its lowest. When we are fighting to stay awake we are less efficient and creative. That is when most mistakes are made and accidents happen ». By fulfilling the need for a doze, « siestas reactivate the automatic memory. We can move from being sleepy to vigilant, while reducing a small quantity of stress along the way, » continues the sophrologist. Having a siesta may help your memory and concentration « but it will do nothing to help chronic fatigue ». Caroline Rome has several suggestions on how best to recharge your batteries. A one to five-minute « flash » siesta can be taken virtually anywhere. « You do not really fall asleep, but you can let go and that has measurable positive benefits. The ideal nap is ten to twenty minutes long: « this is the time needed for a light sleep that reduces biological markers of stress, without dropping into a deep sleep. » The royal siesta (between one and two hours) is not really adapted to the workplace: « It is much more difficult to wake up from a deep sleep as a degree of inertia arises from sleep » explains Rome.
With this in mind, some companies have fitted out areas adapted to these practices. In the US, the offices of Google, Uber and the ice cream brand Ben & Jerry’s all have rest areas. The trend has since crossed the Atlantic. As the magazine Le Nouvel Observateur pointed out, the idea is attracting the directors of more and more companies. A study carried out by Robert Half at the end of 2013 found that 47% of managers and directors of administrative issues are favourable to the introduction of a siesta lasting less than 20 minutes in the workplace. « More and more companies are become aware of the effectiveness and profitability of a nap. I work with in-flight crews, companies with odd working hours and jobs subject to a lot of pressure » says Rome.
From quiet rest areas to futuristic siesta cocoons
For six years, Novius, a web agency in Lyon, has set up a comfortable rest room for its 30 employees, with beanbags, low tables and bedside lights. « Some people sleep for 15 minutes, others an hour. The room is very popular, first come, first served. I usually take advantage of it during the holidays », said Isabelle, 29, PA to the finance director, adding, « New staff members find it fun and relaxing. They don’t usually dare to use it straight away, but it soon becomes a habit. » And at Novius, even the boss takes a nap, and doesn’t try to deny it.
In Charente-Maritime, Léa Nature, a company producing organic products, offers its 500 workers a chill-out area at the request of the works committee. « It is open to all, outside working hours, during compulsory, unpaid breaks: a quarter of an hour between 10 and 11 am, and another between 3 and 4 pm, as well as during the lunch break from midday till 2 pm for a maximum of 1H30, » says Mireille Lizot, the company’s director of communication. Employed in the management service, Angélina is a frequent user of the space. « I don’t really fall asleep, but the silence soothes me and I’m more relaxed. I work in the management service and deal with contentious issues regularly. I spend all day on the phone with dissatisfied clients, and go into the area to recharge my batteries. »
In Orleans, ColorInside fits out rest areas in the workplace and several are truly a dream: CalmSpace, a 10 sq m dome-like object, is covered in a white fabric on which relaxing colours area projected and peaceful perfumes released. It is an installation designed for 15-minute naps. ColorInside also markets lit recliners covered in anatomical mattresses.
In the States, more spectacular products look like they were just pulled off a science-fiction film, for example, Energy-pods, are semi-private reclining chairs fitted with speakers.
In February 2016, University of Miami also acquired two napping pods, futurist cocoon-like chairs on the campus for students who live far from campus Another interesting concept is the Giantbirdnest designed by the creative agency O*GE!. The nest-shaped couch in wood is filled with large foam eggs, the ultimate cocooning place.
Let go and accept the nap
According to Rome, while directors are increasingly conscious of the benefits of naps for both staff and the business, it is often the staff themselves who baulk at the idea. « The most difficult thing is to accept letting go. At work, people are often in a situation of hyper control. Before, people would find hard to accept their sleepiness and would go to sleep in their cars, » she admits. Bear in mind that although the furnishings described earlier make people want to sleep, the specialist believes such napping rooms are not an end in themselves. « Staff are increasingly requesting rest areas but the real goal is to accept the practice and to take it on board. Dedicated rooms are not always appropriate, it depends on the business. Above all I tell employees to sleep a little bit, never mind where, because that is the most efficient way. » This is exactly what the surrealist painter Salvador Dali used to say – he was a fervent admirer of the mini nap, which he called « key sleep ». Why? He would sit in an armchair, arms relaxed, holding a key between his thumb and forefinger just above a plate. Once he had relaxed completely, the fingers relaxed, and the noise of the key on the plate would wake him up and remind him to get back to work.
Crédits header : CC BY-SA Unsplash / Miguel Angel Ruíz Sánchez